The Waiting Game
Claimants for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and SSI (disability benefits) have typically endured lengthy waits for agency decisions on their applications. Large cuts by the Trump Administration in the 2018 budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA) have exacerbated the problem of major delays for disability benefit applicants.
These budget cuts have forced SSA to try and save money by pushing many of its services online, including both disability benefit and retirement benefit services. This online push has been a challenging task for many of the elderly and disabled applicants who have limited access to reliable internet in many cases. Walk-in locations have also felt the impact as lines in local offices are longer than ever throughout the country.
These lines are the result of staffing cuts that have led to waiting times that can last for hours, as well as many patrons being forced to leave without receiving any assistance from staff. Many hopeful applicants are confronted with long waits before the offices even open, and then are forced to continue to wait for hours once inside. Carolyn Colvin, previous Acting Commissioner of SSA, requested a staff increase of nearly 3,000 people. That request has still not been granted.
For many disability applicants going through the hearing process, the wait has been especially difficult. The aforementioned budget cuts came at a time when disability caseloads had already risen steadily over the years. SSA’s caseload has expanded since 2010, currently up by 14%, to 63.3 million retirees and persons with disabilities. Yet, the agency’s core budget has shrunk 16% since that same time. One of the toughest squeezes has been on hiring new disability judges and support staff for the disability hearing process. While in 2012 the average wait for a disability decision was 350 days, the average wait has increased to 626 days.
In certain situations, a Social Security Disability attorney can help to expedite your hearing if you are faced with what SSA considers dire circumstances. Even if your case is not expedited your attorney can use the time the case is pending to make sure your medical records are submitted to SSA and that your claim is fully developed.
Call Green & Greenberg. We can help!